Police, courts at odds over new building

No one in the city wanted discussion about a new public safety building to resemble a domestic squabble, but after Tuesday’s City Council study session, apparently it has.

“I’m worried that whatever happens down the road that we’re going to be left out of the picture,” said James Docter, the city’s municipal court judge.

The current plan for the public safety building is for the city to sell the U.S. Bank building at the corner of Sixth Street and Pacific Avenue and purchase the Kitsap Credit Union building on Burwell Avenue.

“There’s been a pool of money and there’s been a struggle over that money,” Docter said. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in the process we’ve been engaged in the last two years.”

The police department has made it clear that it would like the Burwell location to itself and apparently has more clout than the court does, he said.

“I don’t want to fight with these guys,” he said. “I don’t have the smarts. I don’t have the manpower. We don’t have the clout.”

Bremerton Police Chief Rob Forbes said the Burwell site will meet the department’s needs for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t want to be on a site where we’re immediately restricted,” Forbes said. “Co-locating the courts with the police will create that issue.”

The Burwell site would allow the entire department to be under one roof for the first time in more than 15 years, eliminating the department’s West Precinct, he said.

“The Burwell site is close enough to be downtown, and right now the West Precinct isn’t user-friendly because it isn’t open to the public 24 hours a day,” he said.

City Economic Development Director Gary Sexton said his plan had been to co-locate the courts and police department at one site.

“It was within the bond and it met the needs,” Sexton said. “No one liked it. The police didn’t like it and the courts didn’t like it.”

However, the department would look at an alternate location for the courts with Council guidance in terms of square footage and funding amounts, Sexton said.

Council President Daren Nygren said if the city is unable to find an alternate location for the courts and funding for that location, then the courts and police should be co-located at the Burwell site.

“I am willing commit to you that you will be included and will be involved as much as you should be,” Nygren said.

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